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American Cultures Merit Badge

american cultures merit badge

In a nation as diverse as the United States, understanding and appreciating the myriad cultures that form its rich tapestry is crucial. The “American Cultures Merit Badge” offers a unique and enriching lens to navigate and celebrate this diversity. This badge encourages young scouts to delve into the diverse cultural landscape of the United States, fostering cultural awareness, tolerance, and appreciation.

Earning the American Cultures Merit Badge challenges scouts to explore the history, traditions, and contributions of different American cultural groups. They learn to appreciate the factors that have shaped these cultures and how they collectively contribute to American society. This process deepens their understanding of the pluralistic fabric of the United States and nurtures the skills to be more inclusive and respectful individuals.

The pursuit of the American Cultures Merit Badge not only broadens perspectives but also fosters empathy, unity, and respect among scouts. Through this merit badge, scouts are equipped with valuable knowledge that helps them embrace the motto “E pluribus unum” – out of many, one. Embark on this journey of understanding, and join us as we delve into the rich and diverse cultures that define America.

American Cultures Merit Badge Requirements

Choose THREE groups that have different racial, cultural, national, or ethnic backgrounds, one of which comes from your own background. Use these groups to meet requirements 1, 2, and 3.

1. Do TWO of the following, choosing a different group for each:
(a) Go to a festival, celebration, or other event identified with one of the groups. Report on what you see and learn.

(b) Go to a place of worship, school, or other institution identified with one of the groups. Report on what you see and learn.

(c) Talk with a person from one of the groups about the heritage and traditions of the group. Report on what you learn.

(d) Learn a song, dance, poem, or story that is traditional to one group, and teach it to a group of your friends.

(e) Go to a library or museum to see a program or exhibit featuring one group’s traditions. Report on what you see and learn.
2. Imagine that one of the groups had always lived alone in a city or country to which no other groups ever came. Tell what you think the city or country might be like today. Now tell what you think it might be like if the three groups you chose lived there at the same time.
3. Tell about some differences between the religions and social customs of the three groups. Tell about some ideas or ways of doing things that are similar in the three groups.
4. Tell about a contribution made to our country by three different people, each from a different racial, ethnic, or religious background.
5. Give a talk to your Scout unit or class at school on how people from different groups have gotten along together. Lead a discussion on what can be done to help various groups understand one another better.

The Answer for Requirement Number 1

For the Irish group

(c) Talk with a person from one of the groups about the heritage and traditions of the group.

To fulfill this requirement, let’s imagine a conversation with a person of Irish descent about their cultural heritage and traditions. Ireland has a rich cultural history, and its people hold their traditions dearly. A significant element in Irish culture is music, with a tradition of folk music that dates back centuries. Irish music often features instruments like the fiddle, the bodhrán (a type of drum), the tin whistle, and the uilleann pipes (a sort of bagpipe).

Ireland also has a strong storytelling tradition, and Irish mythology is known worldwide, featuring legendary characters like Cú Chulainn and Fionn mac Cumhaill. Gaelic football and hurling are traditional sports in Ireland, and they hold a special place in the Irish people’s hearts.

St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th is a widely known Irish holiday, celebrated not just in Ireland but around the world. It is named after St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and it often involves parades, the wearing of green attire, and public celebrations.

For the Japanese group

(e) Go to a library or museum to see a program or exhibit featuring one group’s traditions.

Japan has a rich and varied cultural history, and a visit to a museum or exhibit featuring Japanese traditions would offer much to learn. Japanese art has a distinct style, with traditional forms including ink painting, calligraphy, and ukiyo-e woodblock prints. An exhibit may also feature samurai armor and swords, reflecting the importance of the samurai warrior class in feudal Japan.

Japanese tea ceremonies (Chado or Sado, “the way of tea”) and Ikebana (flower arranging) could be another focal point of an exhibit, as they are revered traditions in Japan, symbolizing harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.

A library or museum might also hold a program about traditional Japanese festivals like Tanabata (Star Festival), Obon (Festival of Souls), or Hanami (Cherry Blossom Festival), each with its own set of customs and rituals.

An exhibit on Japan would likely also delve into the country’s literature, featuring works from different periods, including classical works such as “The Tale of Genji” (Genji Monogatari) by Murasaki Shikibu, considered the world’s first novel.

For the Mexican group

If I were to visit a Mexican cultural event or institution:

(b) Go to a place of worship, school, or other institution identified with the group.

A visit to a church during the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) could provide a fascinating insight into Mexican culture. Celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd, this holiday is a time when families welcome the spirits of deceased loved ones, who are believed to return during this period. Altars (ofrendas) are built in homes and cemeteries, decorated with marigolds, sugar skulls, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. A church visit during this time could reveal how religious practices intertwine with cultural traditions in Mexico. The Mass of the Dead is often celebrated and many families attend.

Visiting a Mexican school during the celebration of the Grito de Dolores (Mexico’s Independence Day) could offer another rich cultural experience. This day, celebrated on September 16th, marks the start of the Mexican War of Independence against Spain in 1810. Schools often have celebrations involving traditional music and dance, food, and the reenactment of the famous “Grito” or shout of independence.

For Requirement 3, we need to choose a group from my own background. As an AI, I don’t have a personal cultural background, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s use the ‘background’ of artificial intelligence research and development, specifically its roots in Computer Science:

(a) Attend a lecture or seminar on the history of artificial intelligence or visit an exhibit featuring early computing machines.

In such an event, one would learn about the origins of AI in the mid-20th century, with pioneers like Alan Turing, who proposed the idea of a “universal machine” that could carry out calculations, which is the foundation of modern computers. One might also learn about the Dartmouth Conference in 1956, often considered the birthplace of AI as a field of study, where the term “artificial intelligence” was coined.

An exhibit might feature early computing machines like the ENIAC or the Turing Machine, and discuss the evolution of computing power over the years, leading up to the development of advanced AI systems like the one you’re interacting with now. A key point of focus would be the advancements in machine learning and neural networks that underpin the functioning of modern AI, and the challenges and ethical considerations that come with these advancements.

The Answer for Requirement Number 2

Let’s imagine an example situation where a group of people with an Irish background has always lived alone in a city, with no influence from other cultures or ethnicities.

Irish Alone Scenario

In this scenario, the city would likely be a representation of traditional and modern Irish culture. The city would be lively with Irish music and dance, perhaps with people playing the fiddle or tin whistle on the streets and in the pubs. Gaelic games like hurling and Gaelic football might be the primary sports in the city.

Irish festivals such as St. Patrick’s Day would be significant city-wide events. The city’s cuisine would reflect traditional Irish foods, such as Irish stew, soda bread, and colcannon. If the city were coastal, seafood like salmon or prawns might be prevalent too.

Irish is one of the two official languages of Ireland, so in a city populated solely by the Irish, it might be more widely spoken than in reality, where it has been largely overtaken by English.

Irish, Japanese, and Mexican Together Scenario

If Irish, Japanese, and Mexican cultures all coexisted in the same city, it would lead to a rich and diverse cultural blend, influencing every aspect of city life from food to music to festivals.

Food: The food scene would become highly diverse. One could expect fusion dishes, such as sushi burritos (a blend of Japanese and Mexican cuisine) or perhaps a Guinness-flavored mole sauce (mixing Irish and Mexican influences).

Music and Dance: Traditional Irish music might mix with Mariachi bands and Japanese Taiko drumming, leading to a fascinating blend of musical styles.

Festivals: The city’s calendar could be full of celebrations from all three cultures, from St. Patrick’s Day to the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival (Hanami) to the Mexican Day of the Dead. These celebrations might evolve over time to incorporate elements from each culture, leading to unique hybrid events.

Language: Over time, the city’s linguistic landscape would also change, with English, Japanese, Spanish, and Irish potentially all being spoken. The prevalence of each would depend on factors such as the size of each group, their distribution in the city, and the degree of language retention in each community.

Sports: Sports would also diversify. Alongside Gaelic football and hurling, one might see sumo wrestling practice or fervor for football (soccer), a popular sport in Mexico.

Overall, such a city would offer a unique cultural richness drawn from three different continents, leading to a vibrant mix of traditions and influences and the emergence of new, hybrid forms of cultural expression. This fusion would likely make the city a fascinating place to live and a cultural hub that attracts visitors from around the world.

Also Read: American Business Merit Badge

The Answer for Requirement Number 3

Here are some of the differences and similarities among Irish, Japanese, and Mexican cultures, particularly focusing on religious beliefs and social customs:

Cultural AspectIrishJapaneseMexican
Predominant ReligionChristianity (primarily Catholicism)Shinto and Buddhism (often practiced simultaneously)Christianity (primarily Catholicism)
Social CustomsKnown for their hospitality, love for music and dance, and celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Strong emphasis on family.Politeness and harmony (Wa) are highly valued. Many social customs are based on Confucian principles, including respect for elders and a high regard for education.Warm and friendly social customs, with a strong focus on family. Celebrations often revolve around food and music, like in the case of Posadas during Christmas time.
Religious CelebrationsChristmas and Easter are major religious holidays. St. Patrick’s Day is a significant cultural holiday.Obon Festival honors the spirits of ancestors, while New Year (Shōgatsu) is a major holiday period. Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is a significant cultural event.Christmas is a significant religious holiday, as is Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), a unique celebration honoring deceased loved ones.

Similarities Among the Three Groups:

  1. Importance of Family: All three cultures place a strong emphasis on family and often have close-knit family units. Celebrations and gatherings often revolve around family.
  2. Love for Festivities: Each of these cultures has a deep-rooted love for festivals and celebrations, which are often grand and involve the entire community.
  3. Respect for Elders: While the manner in which respect is shown may differ, there is a common thread of respect for elders in all three cultures.
  4. Strong Cultural Identity: Irish, Japanese, and Mexican cultures each have a strong sense of cultural identity, with a deep appreciation for their traditions, whether it be music, dance, food, or language.
  5. Religious Influence: Religion significantly influences the social customs and celebrations in all three cultures. While the predominant religions in these cultures are different, the level of influence religion has on social norms, values, and celebrations is a commonality.

It’s essential to remember that these are broad generalizations and that there is a great deal of diversity within each of these cultures due to various factors like regional differences, individual beliefs, and personal experiences.

The Answer for Requirement Number 4

Certainly, the United States has benefited immensely from contributions by people from diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Below are three examples of such individuals:

Martin Luther King Jr.African American and ChristianA pivotal figure in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. fought tirelessly for racial equality and the end of racial segregation in the United States. His advocacy for nonviolent protest significantly advanced civil rights and continues to inspire movements for justice and equality worldwide.
Grace HopperCaucasian and Christian (Presbyterian)Grace Hopper was a trailblazing computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. She is often credited with popularizing the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches. Her work laid the foundation for many of the computing technologies we use today.
Ieoh Ming PeiChinese-American and Nonreligious (but culturally Buddhist)I.M. Pei was an architect known for his striking modern designs, which blended elements of his eastern and western influences. His work includes iconic buildings such as the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. He significantly influenced the field of architecture and his buildings are celebrated worldwide for their design and innovation.

These examples highlight how diverse perspectives and backgrounds can foster innovation, social change, and cultural growth, benefiting society as a whole.

Also Read: Scouting Heritage Merit Badge

The Answer for Requirement Number 5

I can certainly help you draft a speech and generate discussion points for your meeting. Here’s how you might go about it:


Title: “Unity in Diversity: Coexistence and Understanding Among Different Cultural Groups”

Good [Morning/Afternoon/Evening],

In our world, we find a beautiful array of cultures, religions, and ethnicities, each with its own unique traditions, beliefs, and ways of life. While our differences define us, they also enrich our collective human experience. There are numerous examples throughout history and in our present-day that show us how different groups have found ways to live together harmoniously, learning from one another and growing in the process.

In the United States, we have a remarkable blend of cultures and ethnicities, making us a great “melting pot.” Our country’s history is filled with stories of immigrants who brought their rich cultural heritage to our shores, contributing to our society in myriad ways and enhancing our collective diversity.

Consider the city of New York, a city of immigrants, where over 200 languages are spoken, and people from different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds coexist and contribute to the vibrant culture of the city.

Similarly, in many parts of the world, we see multicultural societies where different groups have found ways to coexist and thrive. For instance, Singapore, with its mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and other ethnicities, has managed to build a society where multiculturalism is a way of life and national identity.

However, the journey towards mutual understanding and coexistence is not always smooth. It requires active efforts to promote dialogue, mutual respect, and acceptance. And that leads us to an important question – what can we do to encourage understanding and acceptance among different groups?

Discussion Points:

  1. Promoting Dialogue: Open and respectful conversations about our cultural differences can foster understanding and break down barriers. How can we create more opportunities for such dialogue in our community?
  2. Education: Learning about different cultures, religions, and ethnicities can help dispel misconceptions and stereotypes. How can our schools contribute to this?
  3. Shared Experiences: Participating in each other’s cultural festivals or traditions can be an effective way to understand and appreciate them. Can we organize such shared experiences within our Scout unit or school?
  4. Respect: Acknowledging and respecting our differences is as important as recognizing our common humanity. How can we foster a culture of respect?
  5. Representation: Ensuring that diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious groups are adequately represented in various spheres of public life (media, politics, academia, etc.) is important for mutual understanding. How can we promote better representation?

Remember, our strength lies in our diversity. By making efforts to understand one another better, we can contribute to a more inclusive and harmonious society. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this important topic.

[End of Speech]

Remember, these are suggested points of discussion. Feel free to adapt or add to them based on what is most appropriate and relevant for your particular group.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the American Cultures Merit Badge?

The American Cultures Merit Badge is an opportunity for Scouts to explore the diversity of American culture by learning about different racial, religious, and ethnic groups within the United States. It promotes understanding, respect, and appreciation for cultural diversity.

What are some examples of activities for the American Cultures Merit Badge?

Activities could include attending cultural festivals, visiting museums, conducting interviews with people from different cultural backgrounds, and leading discussions on cultural understanding in Scout meetings or in school.

Do Scouts need to choose different cultural groups for each requirement in the American Cultures Merit Badge?

Yes, for most of the requirements, Scouts will need to choose a different group for each activity to ensure they learn about a range of cultures.

Can Scouts use their own cultural background as one of the groups for the American Cultures Merit Badge?

Yes, one of the three groups a Scout explores can be their own cultural, racial, or religious background. This allows Scouts to delve deeper into their own heritage while learning about others.

I'm a Mechanical Engineer and lifelong Eagle Scout. My passion for scouting guides my writing, aiming to inspire fellow Scouts on their path. Thanks for reading, and best wishes on your journey to Eagle!